Seals of the Court of Appeals and Superior Court
District of Columbia Courts

Goal II: Fair and Timely Case Resolution

The Courts are committed to resolving disputes and legal matters in a fair and timely manner. The Courts will continue to provide due process and equal protection of the law, giving individual attention to each case and consistently applying the law in all cases.

Strategies & Key Results

   Strategies    Key Results

Develop time standards to guide all core court operations and functions, including courtroom management and administrative processes.

By 2020, all case types will have time standards.

Improve the management of courtroom calendars, resources, and case scheduling to maximize efficiency of courtroom operations.

By 2020, more courtroom calendars will use staggered or time-certain scheduling approaches and/or team assignments of panel attorneys.

Implement Approaches to enable trials to start on their first scheduled dates and to finish on succeeding days, with continuances granted only in limited circumstances.

By 2022, more trials will begin on the first day scheduled and be completed on consecutive days.

Manage court processes and leverage technology to reduce the need for in-court appearances by parties and attorneys.

By 2019, more status conferences and hearings will be held by video- or tele-conference.

Expand the use of electronic notice and document transmission.

By 2019, electronic notifications, document transmission, and electronic service of process will be implemented.

Explore and develop innovative approaches to case management.

By 2022, innovative uses of alternative dispute resolution, enhanced case screening, and administrative processing of appropriate matters will be piloted.

Assess the effectiveness of the problem-solving courts and implement enhancements.

By 2021, an updated Community Court program model and operational plan will be developed.

Improve juror service through enhanced use of technology and implement best practices for juror summoning and use.

By 2022, the length of time elapsing between jury summons for District residents will be increased from 2 years to 3 years.

Enhance the timeliness and transparency of the court rules process.

By 2020, Rules amendments responding to changes in federal procedural rules will be adopted within 15 months.

Promote procedural fairness and continue to raise awareness of implicit bias within the court community.

By 2019, training on procedural fairness and implicit bias will be part of new personnel orientation.

A fair case outcome must also be timely, as undue delay causes hardship for the parties and increases the cost of litigation. The Courts will implement time standards for all court processes and will manage hearings and trials in the Superior Court and Court of Appeals to maximize adherence to scheduled dates and to limit continuances and delays. A priority will be to ensure that trials start as scheduled and are completed on consecutive days. The Courts will also address any rules amendments required to allow electronic notice and document transmission, thereby decreasing delays in case resolution.

Building on the success of alternative dispute resolution at the trial court level, the Courts recently introduced mediation at the Court of Appeals. During the next five years, the Courts will continue to develop innovative uses of alternative dispute resolution to expedite fair outcomes, including piloting an online dispute resolution initiative in certain tax matters. The Courts will explore new methods of case processing, such as enhanced case screening, monitoring of case progress by specially trained staff, and administrative processing for appropriate matters.

The Courts will continue to engage with community partners and apply a problem-solving approach to criminal and juvenile justice. Collaborating with local organizations, adult offenders in the Criminal Community Court perform between 45,000 and 50,000 hours of community service each year. Innovative problem-solving courts in the Family Court include the Truancy Court, the Family Treatment Court which enables parents to keep their children with them while the parents undergo substance abuse treatment and the Juvenile Behavioral Diversion Program (JBDP) which will expand with the establishment of a problem-solving court for Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC).

The justice system depends on District residents serving jury duty. Over 30,000 District residents report for jury service annually in Superior Court, and the Court strives to make the juror experience a positive one. The Court has implemented a call-in system and other enhancements to ensure effective communication with jurors. Over the next five years, the Court will expand the use of technology and other approaches to improve the management of jury service. The Court will focus on decreasing the frequency of summoning District residents for jury duty from every two years to every three years.

New technologies will continue to transform how court business is conducted in the future. More advanced electronic case management and case filing systems; real-time court reporting, with communication access real-time translation (CART) for hearing-impaired court participants; live-streaming of appellate court proceedings over the internet; hearings by remote video-conference; and electronic transmission of court orders and service of process, are just a few examples. The Plan recognizes that technology will play a key role in accomplishing the Courts’ goal of fair and timely case resolution, and the Courts are committed to exploring and expanding technology solutions to ensure timely case disposition.

Unique among state-level courts, the DC Courts are required to conduct business according to the Federal Rules of Civil, Criminal and Appellate Procedure, and to implement all federal rules amendments unless the Courts adopt modifications to those amendments. This requires a substantial commitment of judicial and staff resources, and has been difficult to manage in a timely manner. The Courts will review processes and make adjustments to enhance the timeliness and transparency of the rules process, such as establishing time standards for committee review, prioritizing the review of statutory rule changes and providing updates or information on the rules reviews on the Courts’ website. The Courts’ goal in the future will be to adopt rules amendments within 15 months of promulgation of federal procedural-rule amendments.

A well-established body of research confirms that people have trust and confidence in the judicial system when they believe that court processes and procedures are fair, even if they are dissatisfied with the outcome of a case. Recognizing this, the Courts will continue to promote the expectation that judicial officers and court personnel will treat all court participants with courtesy and respect, to make court processes and rulings clear and understandable, and to act impartially, without bias of any kind. The Courts will continue to provide training and resources for all court personnel to raise awareness of unconscious bias and procedural-fairness principles.

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